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PARLEY THE PORTER.
SHOWING HOW ROBBERS WITHOUT CAN NEVER GET INTO A HOUSE UNLESS THERE ARE TRAITORS WITHIN.
There was once a certain nobleman, who had a house or castle situated in the midst of a great wilderness, but enclosed in a garden. Now, there was a band of robbers in the wilderness, who had a great mind to plunder and destroy the castle; but they had not succeeded in their endeavors, because the master had given strict orders to " watch without ceasing." To quicken their vigilance, he used to tell them, that their care would soon have an end; that, though the nights they had to watch were dark and stormy, yet they were but few; the period of resistance was short, that of rest would be eternal.
The robbers, however, attacked the castle in various ways. They tried at every avenue; watched to take advantage of every careless moment; looked for an open door or a neglected window. But though they often made the bolts shake and the windows rattle, they could never greatly hurt the house, much less get into it. Do you know the reason? It was because the servants were never off their guard. They heard the noises plain enough, and used to be not a little frightened, for they were aware both of the strength and perseverance of the enemies. But what seemed rather odd to some of these servants, the Lord used to tell them, that while they continued to be afraid, they would be safe; and it passed into a sort of proverb in that family, "Happy is he that feareth always." Some of the servants, however, thought this a contradiction.
One day, when the master was going from home, he called his servants all together, and spoke to them as follows:— "I will not repeat to you the directions I have so often given you; they are all written down in The Book Op Laws, of which every one of you has a copy. Remember, it is a very short time that you are to remain in this castle; you will soon remove to my more settled habitation, to a more durable house, not made with hands. As that house is never exposed to any attack, so it never stands in need of any repair; for that country is never infested by any sons of violence. Here you are servants; there you will be princes. But mark my words,—and you will find the same in The Book Of My Laws,—whether you will ever attain to that house, will depend on the manner in which you defend yourselves in this. A stout vigilance for a short time will secure you certain happiness forever. But every thing depends on your present exertions. Don't complain and take advantage of my absence, and call me a hard master, and grumble that you are placed in the midst of a howling wilderness, without peace or security. Say not, that you are exposed to temptations without any power to resist them. You have some difficulties, it is true, but you have many helps and many comforts to make this house tolerable, even before you get to the other. Yours is not a hard service, and, if it were, 'the time is short.' You have arms if you will use them, and doors if you will bar them, and strength if you will use it. I would defy all the attacks of the robbers without, if I could depend on the fidelity of the people within. If the thieves ever get in and destroy the house, it must be by the connivance of one of the family ;—for it is a standing law of this castle, that mere outward attack can never destroy it, if there be no consenting traitor within. You will stand or fall as you observe this rule. If you are finally happy, it will be by my grace and favor; if you are ruined, it will be your own fault."
When the nobleman had done speaking, every servant repeated his assurance of attachment and firm allegiance to his master. But among them all, not one was so vehement and loud in his professions as old Parley the Porter. Parley, indeed, it was well known, was always talking, which exposed him to no small danger; for as he was the foremost to promise, so he was the slackest to perform; and, to speak the truth, though he was a civil-spoken fellow, his Lord was more afraid of him, with all his professions, than he was of the rest who protested less. He knew that Parley was vain, credulous, and self-sufficient; and he always apprehended more danger from Parley's impertinence, curiosity, and love of novelty, than even from the stronger vices of some of his other servants. The rest, indeed, seldom got into any scrape, of which Parley was not the cause, in some shape or other.
I am sorry to be obliged to confess, that though Parley
was allowed every refreshment, and all the needful rest which the nature of his place permitted, yet he thought it very hard to be forced to be so constantly on duty. "Nothing but watching!" said Parley. "I have, to be sure, many pleasures, and meat sufficient; and plenty of chat, in virtue of my office; and I pick up a good deal of news of the comers and goers, by day,—but it is hard that at night I must watch as narrowly as a house-dog, and yet let in no company without orders, only because there is said to be a few straggling robbers here in the wilderness, with whom my master does not care to let us be acquainted. He pretends to make us vigilant through fear of the robbers, but I suspect it is only to make us mope alone. A merry companion and a mug of beer would make the night pass cheerily." Parley, however, kept all these thoughts to himself, or uttered them only when no one heard; for talk he must. He began to listen to the nightly whistling of the robbers under the windows with rather less alarm than formerly, and was sometimes so tired of watching, that he thought it was even better to run the risk of being robbed once, than to live always in the fear of robbers.
There were certain bounds in which the Lord allowed his servants to walk and divert themselves at all proper seasons. A pleasant garden surrounded the castle, and a thick hedge separated this garden from the wilderness, which was infested by the robbers: in this garden they were permitted to amuse themselves. The master advised them always to keep within these bounds. "While you observe this rule," said he, "you will be safe and well; and you will consult your own safety and happiness, as well as show your love to me, by not venturing even to the extremity of your bounds: he who goes as far as he dares, always shows a wish to go farther than he ought, and commonly does so."
It was remarkable, that the nearer these servants kept to the castle, and the farther from the hedge, the more ugly the wilderness appeared. And the nearer they approached the forbidden bounds, their own home appeared more dull, and the wilderness more delightful. And this the master knew when he gave his orders; for he never either did or said any thing without a good reason. And when his servants sometimes desired an explanation of the reason, he used to tell them they would understand it when they came to the other house; for it was one of the pleasures of that house, that it would explain all the mysteries of this, and any little obscurities in the master's conduct would be then made quite plain.
Parley was the first who promised to keep clear of the hedge, and yet was often seen lo ung as near as he durst. One day he ventured close up to the hedge, put two or three stones one on another, and tried to peep over. He saw one of the robbers strolling as noar as he could be, on the forbidden side. This man's name was Mr. Flatterwell, a smooth, civil man, "whose words were softer than butter, having war in his heart." He made several low bows to Parley.
Now, Parley knew so little of the world, that he actually concluded all robbers must have an ugly look, which should frighten you at once; and coarse, brutal manners, which would at first sight show they were enemies. He thought, like a poor ignorant fellow as he was, that this mild, specious person could never be one of the band. Flatterwell accosted Parley with the utmost civility, which put him quite off his guard; for Parley had no notion that he could be an enemy, who was so soft and civil. For an open foe he would have been prepared. Parley, however, after a little discourse, drew this conclusion, that either Mr. Flatterwell could not be one of the gang, or that, if he was, the robbers themselves could not be such monsters as his master had described, and therefore it was a folly to be afraid of them.
Flatterwell began, like a true adept in his art, by lulling all Parley's suspicions asleep, and instead of openly abusing his master, which would have opened Parley's eyes at once, he pretended rather to commend him in a general way, as a person who meant well himself, but was too apt to suspect others. To this Parley assented. The other then ventured to hint by degrees, that though the nobleman might be a good master in the main, yet he must say he was a little strict, and a little stingy, and not a little censorious; that he was blamed by the gentlemen in the wilderness for shutting his house against good company; and his servants were laughed at by people of spirit for submitting to the gloomy life of the castle, and the insipid pleasures of the garden, instead of ranging in the wilderness at large.
"It is true enough," said Parley, who was generally of the opinion of the person he was talking with. "My master is rather harsh and close. But to own the truth, all the barring, and locking, and bolting, is to keep out a set of gentlemen, who, he assures us, are robbers, and who are waiting for an opportunity to destroy us. I hope no offence, sir, bnt by your livery I suspect you, sir, are one of the gang he is so much afraid of."
Flatterwell. Afraid of me? Impossible, dear Mr. Parley.
VOL. I. 8
You see I do not look like an enemy. I am unarmed; what harm can a plain man like me do?
Parley. Why, that is true enough. Yet my master says, that if we were once to let you into the house, we should be ruined, soul and body.
Flatterwell. I am sorry, Mr. Parley, to hear so sensible a man as you are so deceived. This is mere prejudice. He knows we are cheerful, entertaining people, foes to gloom and superstition, and therefore he is so morose he will not let you get acquainted with us.
Parley. Well; he says you are a band of thieves, gamblers, murderers, drunkards, and atheists.
Flatterwell. Don't believe him: the worst we should do, perhaps, is, we might drink a friendly glass with you, to your master's health; or play an innocent game of cards, just to keep you awake; or sing a cheerful song with the maids: now, is there any harm in all this?
Parley. Not the least in the world. And I begin to think there is not a word of truth in all my master says.
Flatterwell. The more you know us, the more you will like us. But I wish there was not this ugly hedge between us. I have a great deal to say, and I am afraid of being overheard.
Parley was now just going to give a spring over the hedge, but checked himself, saying, "I dare not come on your side; there are people about, and every thing is carried to my master." Flatterwell saw by this that his new friend was kept on his own side of the hedge by fear rather than by principle, and from that moment he made sure of him. "Dear Mr. Parley," said he, " if you will allow me the honor of a little conversation with you, I will call under the window of your lodge this evening. I have something to tell you greatly to your advantage. I admire you exceedingly. I long for your friendship: our whole brotherhood is ambitious of being known to so amiable a person." "O dear," said Parley, "I shall be afraid of talking to you at night; it is so against my master's orders. But did you say you had something to tell me to my advantage?"
Flatterwell. Yes, I can point out to you how you may be a richer, a merrier, and a happier man. If you will admit me to-night under the window, I will convince you that it is prejudice, and not wisdom, which makes your master bar his door against us; I will convince you that the mischief of a robber, as your master scurrilously calls us, is only in the name; that we are your true friends, and only mean to promote your happiness.